After the betrayal, there is so much talk about wedding vows. What do they mean once they are broken? In most wedding vows we don’t promise not to have sexual relationships with other partners, it’s implied by the word faithful. A bride and groom promise to honor and cherish each other but those vows seem to be easily forgotten. Often wedding vows are thrown in the betrayers face after the discovery of the affair:
Didn’t our vows mean anything to you?
What if wedding vows have lost their meaning? Maybe wedding vows do not actually hold value through the years. They seem easily dismissed and forgotten for anyone dealing with infidelity.
When my husband and I were married we did not say traditional wedding vows. I never actually said “for better or for worse.” The idea that I rejected traditional wedding vows for ones that I wrote is haunting in the aftermath of his infidelity. I question whether any vows spoken on our wedding day would have any influence over my husband’s behavior but maybe traditional vows would have been easier to remember.
I mean, I don’t even remember what we said in our vows unless I dig out the VHS tape and find a VCR somewhere in the attic.
Today I was digging through a Rubbermaid bin looking for a book a friend had given me almost eighteen years ago. I found a book of poetry from my teenage years and inside the book… our vows. The rough draft of our wedding vows. Chicken scratch and all. I remember deciding to write our own vows and then the eve before our wedding my husband confided that he was unable to find words to express his love appropriately and could we say the same thing. I agreed to it and I think I shared with him what I had written. I, too, had been trying to write something brilliant, amazing and full of love but felt like I was having writer’s block. I can’t remember if it bothered me or not that our vows were almost a last minute effort? My husband had always been able to express his love freely for me in poetry and love notes, so why did he struggle with writing our vows? Why was it hard for me? The struggle came from creating vows that meant more to us than the traditional ones. So this is what I came up with:
As we go through life may we always look back upon this day and remember why we came together today. Letting go of all my deepest fears and embracing all my faith, I promise to share this love with you always. I promise you a love that is eternal and beyond time. I promise you a love that is beyond right and wrong. This night shall always be a sacred memory of the promise of my love to you. We have inherited this legacy of love from our parents and grandparents. May their love shine through our marrriage. This is my solemn vow. I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. With this ring, I thee wed.
All these years later I wonder, were those words enough? I don’t think any vows would change the outcome. The only thing that could change his behavior and choices would have been to wake up every morning and speak those vows as a daily meditation or prayer. Maybe vows need to be exchanged every day between husband and wife to have meaning.
I remember listening to Anne Brecht talk about a month ago about not jumping to renew wedding vows in the wake of betrayal. She actually, feels like it’s not appropriate or necessary. I listened to her explain how renewing wedding vows will not bring comfort or take on any meaning beyond where you are in the healing process. I hear her point, but I do hope to someday renew my vows with my husband. I would like to stand with him and hear him speak his love for me in his own words. Words written by him, only for me. No one else needs to be there… this time, the vows will be between us and only for us.